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FIGHTING BACK (DEATH VENGEANCE) (director: Lewis Teague; screenwriters: David Zelag/Thomas Hedley, Jr.; cinematographer: Franco Di Giacomo; editors: Nicholas Smith/John J. Fitzstephens; music: Piero Piccioni; cast: Tom Skerritt (John D’Angelo), Patti LuPone (Lisa D’Angelo), Michael Sarrazin (Vince Morelli), Yaphet Kotto (Ivanhoe Washington), David Rasche (Michael Taylor), Pat Cooper (Harry Janelli); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: R; producers: D. Constantine Conte/David Permut; Paramount; 1982)
“Ambitious but heavily flawed urban thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Lewis Teague(“Cujo”/”Navy Seals”/”Avalanche“) directs this ambitious but heavily flawed urban thriller. Writers David Zelag and Thomas Hedley, Jr keep its conversation about urban vigilantism provocative but unfulfilling.

Tom Skerritt plays an Italian-American deli owner in South Philly. When his best friend friend is shot, his mother’s finger amputated by thugs and wife (Patti LuPone) miscarriages, the beleaguered Tom organizes a vigilante group to bring law and order to the street and get revenge. This elevates Tom into a media celebrity. Yaphet Kotto plays the black leader worried about a racial war starting.

The pic uses the cop played by Michael Sarrazin as its moral compass.

It tries to have it both ways in its commentary on vigilantes. It tells of the vigilante’s unruly and illegal acts to get justice, while at the same time pointing out vigilantes can be a positive experience if justice is served. The muddled film never really has something worthwhile to say about the perennial hot button issues it opines about– urban crime, vigilantes and America’s racial divide.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”